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MY FELLOW AMERICANS

      

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Aug. 5, 2016

EDITOR’S NOTE: Warner Archive is to be commended for releasing vintage movie titles that have languished on the shelf for decades with no home-video release, and now the manufacture-on-demand website is to be commended for giving widescreen releases to films that previously could only be found on full-frame, pan-and-scan DVDs. True, the choices aren’t always fabulous. But then, most of the true classics have long been available in widescreen. With that in mind, here’s a PG-13 comedy that is making its widescreen video debut, and here’s my Dec. 24, 1996, Deseret News review.

Several national critics have come up with the same appropriate alternate title for "My Fellow Americans." They're calling it "Grumpy Old Presidents."

And it perfectly fits this film, which derives a lot of its laughs from watching two older, supposedly distinguished gentlemen making extremely vulgar jokes.

Instead of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, however, it's Jack Lemmon and James Garner — and they certainly demonstrate what a couple of old pros can do with mediocre material. In fact, Lemmon and Garner are so good that they raise this sitcom-style picture to a much higher level than it deserves.

Watching them is literally all the fun.

     

             Dan Aykroyd, 'My Fellow Americans'

The story has the current U.S. president (Dan Aykroyd, who has very little to do) finding himself involved in a scandal, so he allows his advisers to implicate two former presidents, one a cheapskate Republican (Lemmon) and the other a womanizing Democrat (Garner).

Though they despise each other, Garner and Lemmon find themselves thrown together in the middle of nowhere, as they try to unravel the mystery before a renegade secret agent has them killed.

     

Lauren Bacall, Jack Lemmon, James Garner, 'My Fellow Americans'

Lemmon and Garner are both having a great time, and their enjoyment is, to some degree, infectious. But after awhile, the one-note vulgarity, naive political grandstanding and stupefied looks on the faces of people they encounter become far too redundant, helping the film run out of steam long before it's over.

Worse, the supporting characters all get short shrift, and with talented players like Aykroyd, Lauren Bacall and Wilford Brimley in the cast, it's a real shame that none of them has much to do. (Although, John Heard's unexpected portrayal of a nerdy nitwit vice president does have its moments.)

Still, there's something to be said for pairing up two stalwart stars like Lemmon and Garner. Even in a lesser vehicle like this one, it's just a pleasure to watch them at work.